What the JOLTS and retail sales reports reveal about the job market and economy


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KBSI) – The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates both Illinois and Missouri saw a significant increase in the number of hires from November to December at 0.6 and 1.6 percent, respectively. 

There are about 1.7 job openings for every 1 unemployed person in the United States. In Missouri, that disparity is even greater at 2.5 job openings for every 1 unemployed person. 

Southern Illinois University professor Kevin Sylwester advised not to take too much stock in one report, though.

“Unless we see something sustained, I wouldn’t read more into that than maybe just an aberration,” he said. “As labor markets improve, not all states experience it at the same pace.” 

Instead, as Southeast Missouri State professor David Yaskewich explained, we should look at a combination of data sets to get a clearer picture of the labor market. 

“If you take that low rate of involuntary separation, you look at the high rate of job vacancies compared to the unemployed, and you look at the low unemployment rate of 2.8 percent in Missouri, all of these numbers are going to indicate we still have a strong labor market,” he said.

In other economic news, retail sales saw a higher-than-expected jump of 3 percent in January. Both professors said this could be extra motivation for the Federal Reserve to keep pushing their recent trend of monetary policy. 

“This was a two-sided report, a double-edged sword,” Sylwester said. “On the one hand, it’s showing a strong economy; on the other hand, it shows that the Federal Reserve might be more aggressive at raising interest rates.” 

“We’re not seeing that continued slow-down persist, and it’s likely that more is yet to come when it comes to that disinflationary process of seeing some slowdown in activity in order to get lower inflation,” Yaskewich said.

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